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Iowa advocacy group files conflict of interest complaint against environmental protection commissioner

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed a conflict of interest complaint Tuesday against Environmental Protection Commission member Brent Rastetter, an appointee by Gov. Terry Branstad.

The progressive advocacy organization, which has is known by its frequent demonstration chant of “people before profits,” charges that Rastetter should either resign from the EPC or given up his private role as owner and president of Quality Ag, Inc. In their complaint, Iowa CCI quotes Iowa Code 68B.2A, “Prohibited outside employment and activities — conflicts of interest,” which states in part that “any person who serves or is employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not engage in … outside employment or an activity that is subject to the official control, inspection, review, audit or enforcement authority of the person, during the performance of the person’s duties of office or employment.”

The EPC is a nine-member citizen oversight arm of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which provides policy guidance and supervision over state efforts to protect air and water quality. In essence, the Commission is poised to develop and enforce state policy that would directly impact Quality Ag’s profit margin.

“It’s as clear as the nose on my face,” Barb Kalbach, a fourth generation farmer and CCI member from Dexter, said in a prepared statement. “Brent Rastetter must either resign from the EPC or resign as president of Quality Ag, Inc. and sell his ownership stake in the company.”

Iowa CCI members spoke out at the monthly EPC meeting in Windsor Heights, a meeting that Rastetter skipped. Members detailed his June 21 vote against Clean Water Act rulemaking that would have brought Iowa into compliance with federal law after 30 years of noncompliance. The group contends that by voting to scrape the proposed Clean Water Act rules, Rastetter chose to put his own financial self-interest ahead of interest of everyday people and the environment.

CCI members then filed the ethics complaint with Megan Tooker, the executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. CCI members summarized the three key points of the ethics complaint, including Rastetter’s financial interest in weakening public oversight of the factory farm industry, his political contributions to Governor Branstad’s campaign, and statements he made deriding government regulations during his Iowa Senate confirmation hearing last winter.

“We take all complaints that come into our office very seriously,” Tooker said. “I’ll review the complaint and make a recommendation to the board about what they should do based on my legal opinion.”

Branstad stands by his appointment of Rastetter to the Commission. Rastetter is the brother of Bruce Rastetter, appointed by Branstad to the Iowa Board of Regents and a well-known GOP funder and supporter. The two brothers founded Quality Ag in the early 1990s.

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